The Small Device Having a Very Big Impact on Your Email Strategy

With smartphone penetration in excess of 50% in Australia, and mobile internet usage continuing to surge – spare a moment to think about the impact that this could be having on your email marketing strategy. Although it is not one of the more sexy digital topics, email is still a very important staple in the digital toolkit – and now more than ever the channel needs love to adapt to the change in consumer behaviour bought on by mobile.

So what are some of the most important things to think about?

When was the last time you tested send times?

Time of Day
A recent study conducted by Pure Profile (which surveyed over 1,000 Australians) found that 41% of Australians check their mobile phone at or before 7am, with almost half indicating they check their phone as soon as they wake, even on weekends. Whilst a report released in September by ExactTarget found that 71% of Australians checked their email as their first digital priority of the morning. Research by Pure Profile also found that 45% of Australians, check emails on their phone as the last thing they do before they go to sleep at night, even on weekends. This opens up new opportunities for marketers to trial sends before 9am and after 5pm in an attempt to kick start declining open and click through rates.

Is Saturday & Sunday the new “in” days to send
For years email marketers avoided Saturdays and Sundays like the plague as consumers moved into leisure mode. But unsurprisingly email viewing via mobile devices is highest towards the back end of the week and on the weekends – as consumers switch away from desktops. With bricks and mortar retail trade often highest towards the end of the week and on weekends – this represents a significant opportunity for retailers as inboxes are largely uncluttered.

Email and Social Media IntegrationShould you be thinking mobile first when designing email templates – you betcha!

According to Return Path, by the end of 2012 more emails in the US will be read on a mobile device than via a desktop / webmail experience. As Australia’s smartphone penetration is the second highest in the world (second only to Singapore) it is safe to assume this trend is as equally as relevant. The implications of this are fairly self explanatory – those that aren’t optimizing their emails for mobile devices stand to lose out. But what are the most important things to think about when designing the ideal mobile friendly email template?

eDialog reports that around 80% of all users find it harder to read email on their phones and sums up the biggest complaints (so you can ensure you avoid them):
• Having to scroll to read all information (15%),
• A surplus of textual content (9%),
• Images rendering badly or not at all (8%)

Are mobile devices for viewing or subscribing?

One of the hotly debated topics is whether or not consumers go to the trouble of subscribing to emails via mobile devices – given subscription forms can be difficult to complete on a mobile device. According to a study conducted by The Relevancy Group, 20% of consumers have used their mobile device to opt in to emails – demonstrating that mobile isn’t hampering consumers desire to sign up to email communication. As a result, brands need to ensure not to do away with sign up functionality on mobile sites when attempting to provide a more simplified mobile version of their desktop website.

Here’s a video from Hubspot on Social, Mobile, and Email Marketing Updates:

References
http://www.themultichannelretailer.com/news/7064/marketers_need_to_embrace_changing_email_habits/
http://www.returnpath.com/resource/email-in-motion/
http://www.startupsmart.com.au/online-and-email-marketing/four-in-10-australians-check-their-phone-before-7am-report/201210057791.html
http://www.startupsmart.com.au/online-and-email-marketing/three-top-email-marketing-trends-revealed/201209137559.html

Continue Reading

Email & Social Media – Bed Buddies Not Arch Enemies

Since the explosion of social media, email marketing has been put on the endangered species list. If we venture into the wild world of email we find it is still thriving and has done so particularly since the economic downturn, however many are sceptical about its life span. The email vs social media argument has been re-ignited in 2010 with a recent Gartner report signalling bleak times for email. However a recent post on eConsultancy interviewing many of the leaders in the email field see it very differently.

So is it time to start preparing for emails devise? Hardly rather social media is probably giving email a new lease on life, giving email a new partner in crime!

So how is the landscape changing and how can marketers leverage the link between social and email to improve communication and response?

Convergence

Whilst each channel provides its advantages and draw backs – industry software leaders know that convergence is going to play a big role in the evolution of the 2 channels.

Facebook knows that email plays an important role in its future and as such is currently investing in a full webmail service – called Project Titan. Whilst Google & Microsoft are also rapidly integrating social functionality into Gmail and Outlook. These changes in functionality will mean that email becomes the start of a conversation from a brand, one which can then continue amongst a subscribers’ network and peers.

Email and Social Media IntegrationCollaboration

Social media provides email marketing with the vehicle to enable one to one communications to become many to many. Providing the ability to share content from email however is not enough. Good online content that is topical will be rewarded and discussed within the social space outside of the confines of email. The viral nature of social media provides the element that email needs to ensure this information is being given to those who will benefit from it most (not just those subscribed to receive it) – and this is what pull marketing is all about.

Database Extension

One of the most valuable tools social media provides for email marketers is the ability to gather new subscribers. Fan pages, groups etc provide brands with the notification that they have a loyal base of followers. However if these consumers subscribe to receive email information it provides the brand with the direct connection with the user to foster a deeper relationship. Advocates that are empowered with this information then become the brand vehicle and gateway to access a wider audience in the social space.

The above demonstrates that in a web 2.0 world it is not a channel fight of the titans but rather a teaming up of email and social that is going to take email marketing into the next decade as a discipline and also important strategy for your organisation.

Continue Reading

What Have The Search Juggernaughts Got In Store For Us?

Search Engine Marketing

As the battle of the search giants continues, R&D rolls on. Google and Microsoft have taken the war from search engines to our desktops, to our mobiles and into our marketing budgets with one prime objective – DOMINATION.

So whilst we all feel a bit violated by how far these brands are prepared to invade our privacy – as marketers we are all benefiting from a range of free tools and their innovation is also creating a wealth of new opportunities to connect and collaborate with our intended audience.

So what are some of the latest innovations and how will these change the marketing landscape?

Google Wave

Google WaveGoogle wave is in marketing speak a communications and collaborations tool but to simplify it, wave is email and instant messaging on steroids. Google Wave, which was produced by the same engineers as Google Maps, offers functionality like email playback, image sharing features, real time IM and a suite of other interesting functions. With a release date set for sometime in September, Google Wave may, if widely embraced, change the way email is as we know it.

How will this change the landscape?

Wave could transform the traditional email marketing campaign and this could be an exciting prospect for the email industry. Wave does have some very funky tools that will enable email to become more social thus it could mark the start of a new era in email tools. To preview the platform click here – note the video is 1 hour 20 minutes long but after 20 minutes you will get the jist.

Bing Vertical Search

With the introduction of its new search engine, Bing wants to do more than provide search results. As its positioning states, Bing is a decision engine, as it aims to help users to make decisions related to key problems. As a result Bing is investing heavily within its vertical search categories such as travel, shopping, medical and news (view Bing US to see what Microsoft is creating). Bing sees the future of search in aggregating content from various sources into one rich experience that is easy to navigate. Thus although Google is already doing it through universal search, the information is not structured logically to support a users decision process and this is where Bing could gain a significant advantage.

But with the Bing launch now old news, I am probably not telling you much more than you already know. So the question is where is this going? While this is largely speculative, it is believed that Microsoft will expand its vertical search by up to 12 separate channels. My guess is that Bing will build verticals across jobs/careers, education, property and finance at a minimum. So whilst Bing has its sights set on vertical search it seems Google has similar ideas. Google has already begun entering the vertical arena with Google Real Estate and also Google City Tour. And whilst at this stage it is difficult to tell how successful their vertical search strategies will be, I feel if Bing stays on route with aggregating content and steering clear of white labelling third party supplier products, they might have one up on industry leader.

How will this change the landscape?

Bing vertical search expansion to our shores will largely depend on the uptake of the Bing search engine as a whole. If the uptake is not there, we may not see the vertical search channels evolve locally, however I still expect to see Google rise to the challenge and focus even more heavily on this space. Thus with Bing now powering Yahoo, and plans for expansion into vertical search, along with Google’s progression in the area, vertical search engines – such as product comparison sites may decrease in popularity as search engines start to win back vertical search categories.

Want to know more about Bing? View this 2 minute overview

What else are these giants getting up to?

Google AnalyticsHere are some of the other tools that have recently been released or are in the pipeline;

Google Natural Search Ranking; Launched earlier in the year, but somewhat under the radar Google now provides the ability for Google Analytics users to not only view organic keywords which bought traffic to a site but to determine how those keywords ranked. As personal and local search has made ranking measurement tools less accurate, this provides SEOs with added intelligence to improve for their organic search strategies. For more information on Google Natural search rankings click here

Google Voice; Whilst in beta for a number of years, Google voice lets users manage their voice services online. With a single phone number, users can manage their voice services online – and the beauty of the tool is that the number is tied to the individual not a location like a home phone number or a device like a mobile. At this stage Google Voice is a free service, but is only available in the US. It is unclear when Google voice could make its way to our shores – but if it does one thing is for sure – Google need to find a way to monetise this product so no doubt there could be some interesting advertising models surfacing here.

Bing Tweets Results; Real time search has received a lot of attention over the past few months because of Twitters rise to fame. In early July Bing announced its first steps towards integrating real time tweet from prominent individuals into their search results. In addition Bing has announced that this is the first way they are dipping their toe into the water. Thus there is no doubt that this is one of the areas they will continue to innovate within in the coming months.

Have you come across any other key innovations by the search giants? If so add them below.

Continue Reading

Rethinking Your Email Marketing Strategy

There is no doubt about it – companies love the mass email marketing strategy.

But with inboxes fuller than ever and attention spans reducing at a rapid rate, how are you going to adapt your email strategy?

This article aims to get you thinking about how to re-engineer your email strategy and metrics to give your email marketing a new lease of life.

Rethinking performance metrics

Marketers are obsessed with campaign based metrics – opens / clicks and most of all revenue but what was the value lost from your recent email campaign?

ROI from email marketing is obviously the reason why so many businesses adopt the mass mail strategy, but what impact does this have on your subscriber base?

Email addresses did not magically appear on your database, building a relationship and trust with customers is a difficult process and a costly one – so preservation of an organisations most valuable asset (its database) is integral. Mass email marketing is more costly than organisations give it credit for – thus it is important to calculate the cost of database churn – particularly if it is those that have made several purchases and are of high value to your organisation.

Rethinking your content strategy

Untargeted promotional emails sent to the masses may capture a few prospect buyers by chance, but outside of this if your consumers are not in the decision set for purchasing your product your email has fallen on deaf ears.

According to a report by Exact Target in the US, marketers are looking to integrate social media into their email campaigns. So whether this be providing subscribers with the opportunity to share content or driving users to fan pages this will be one of the trends to emerge in the next 6 – 12 months in Australia.

However these techniques are ineffective if your content strategy is unengaging. Applying some of the principles of social media – such as delivering value through quality content rather than pushing marketing messages to consumers will be the platform of any successful integration between the techniques.

Email Marketing StrategyRethinking email intelligence

Email marketing has become such a quantitative science. Integrating email systems with analytics to discover end to end behaviour and to improve campaigns has been such a valuable source of intelligence BUT what can email learn from website development? There is so much value gained from the end consumer that email marketers are really only getting half the story. It may sound simple but build feedback mechanisms into your campaigns to give customers an open invitation to respond with content suggestions and requests and most importantly feedback on why people are unsubscribing.

Rethinking emails importance

With so many other new digital channels gaining the attention at present, email marketing is the unloved child. Your email strategy probably has and will continue to play an important role in achieving your marketing objectives so it’s probably time to rethink how you can take your email marketing to the next level.

Have you recently changed your email strategy for the better? If so why not share your tips here.

Continue Reading

Is Email Marketing Dying a Slow Death?

Email Marketing Death

In recent months Australians true love of social media has been revealed. In March 2009 Nielson released their latest Australian online research which demonstrated 6.5 million Australians now belong to at least 1 social network.

However perhaps the most interesting finding was that Australians usage of social networking sites has now outstripped email marketing. In particular it is the younger demographics who are shunning email for a more personalised, instantaneous and interactive communication experience.

Email Marketing – The Issues in Detail

Mismatch Between Push & Pull of Email Marketing

With the economic downturn driving down budgets, marketers are doing more with email given its low cost. This is creating a widening gap as consumers are using email less but businesses are driving more. Net result – lower response rates and increasing user disengagement.

Email marketingWhy Log In?

Traditionally email was a great way to keep in touch with our friends and family – however there is no shortage of sites providing a rich interactive experience to do this. These new channels are resulting in increased separation between personal and professional communication tools. As a result in private time users will spend more time dipping in and out of their inboxes (like a letterbox) to quickly retrieve information of importance rather than spending lengthy amounts of time staying in touch with their loved ones.

ESPs Are Evolving

Faced by decreasing relevance, ESPs such as Yahoo understand the shift in social behaviour and are re-inventing the inbox. Yahoo is doing this is by providing the new smarter inbox function enabling filtering emails into a priority inbox from regular contacts with whom the user exchanges mail with. Yahoo is also integrating updates from connections to provide a more interactive tool.

Rivals Hotmail have also created network functionality to integrate with properties across their Windows Live portfolio.

But is this change too little, too late for ESPs? Do we need another network to interact with our friends – or will the latest changes by ESPs be the demise of social networks?

Timing is KeyWhat does this mean for email marketing?

Despite the changing landscape, email still has a good shelf-life for marketers, but marketers must evolve. How?

Timing is key – As email user behaviour in and out of work hours will now differ significantly – it is now more important than ever to measure the most effective time to be sending email.

What Engagement – Organisations must extend their email program to be a more interactive as opposed to traditional one way dialogue. This could be through encouraging end users to contribute new ideas, feedback or even be involved in content generation for distribution which is more inline with the participative web. In addition and where relevant organisations should look to integrate email with social media and use new features such as video email to differentiate

Control & Preferences – Now more than ever marketers need to give people more control over when and how they consume email content, making the end user more likely to consume email communication.

Do you have any other thoughts or ideas for email marketers to evolve? If so comment below;

Continue Reading